What do a hike and a design project have in common, and how to prepare for both?

I love hiking and I love designing. Their processes resemble each other. Sometimes a hike or a project can be so simple that not much planning is needed, but if it’s a bit more demanding work/route, the journey might go as described below.

Photo of me in the mountains taken by Mirta Kess

The different stages of a hike / a design project

1. COLLECTING inspiration and ideas

Whenever I find out about an interesting hiking destination, I add it to my list of ideas for day trips and longer trips.

Also art and design ideas are constantly popping in my head. I draw, write and make audio recordings of all kinds of observations and thoughts. If someone were to find these notes, they’d probably think the creator is “not playing with a full deck” or that the deck has gotten completely out of hand.

Any environment or situation can whisper new ideas, whether it’s a supermarket or a park, a detail of an object or a phrase said by a passerby.

2. Choosing the company

Some hikes/projects are best done alone and some with others. The solo journeys allow you lots of freedom and space, preventing possible unideal compromises and challenges brought by cooperations.

And other times, companion is a must, leading to more fun and rewarding process and outcome. In this case, it’s good if you can get to know each other a little before you start trekking/working together, so that you know each other’s character, values, aspirations and previous experiences.

3. SETTING A GOAL/destination

With projects and hikes, we can start by using the WOOP method in which we define our wish, desired outcome, possible obstacles and make a plan on how to reach it.

Ideally, the project gets all the involved parties excited, and its goal is somewhat outside of the comfort zone, to enable development and to create fresh and impactful results.


After the goal is clear, in a design assignment, we’ll create a schedule with milestones and deliverables and agree on the budget and pricing.

With hiking, the preparation is mainly about creating a route plan using a map, setting the date and timetable, packing the needed items and checking the weather forecast closer to the date.


We’ll meet at the agreed place and time, and maybe have cups of coffee before setting off.

Sometimes we move faster, sometimes slower. Our paces may differ, but we’ll check that we stay on schedule so we’ll reach the milestones and eventually the destination in time before the sun goes down or the last gondola leaves.

In design projects, we’ll use ideation and creation methods that make sense for the particular project. For example, when I’ve drawn illustrations for a children’s book or been designing service experiences for a retail chain, the used methods have been quite different. In all cases, the purpose is to collect a sufficient amount of information about the industry with its operators as well as the behaviour, needs and desires of the target audience. Simultaneously taking into account what’s going on in the world and what are the experiences and preferences of the customer.

Journey should be fun and it is easier if the travellers have a sense of humour and appreciation for interesting things appearing on the way.

Sweating and fatigue can rarely be avoided, but it indicates that something is happening. The solution and goal is getting closer. At milestones, we take a moment to see how far we’ve come, and maybe have some snacks to boost our energy to continue our journey.

There can also come surprises that require changes. For example, if the customer suddenly needs to reschedule or if a certain walking route is closed due to the risk of an avalanche – then a change of plan is needed.

The highlights of hiking are, for example, when you notice your everyday worries have faded away and you realise that you are just a tiny little part of nature. Or when you hear nothing but birdsong, or when snowflakes fall on you from sunny trees. Or when the scenery fills your eyes with tears of happiness.


5, 4, 3, 2, 1… and finally we’ll reach our goal/destination! It’s time to stop and celebrate our achievement. Maybe we want the whole world to know what we have created or maybe we raise our glasses (or coffee mugs) and soak up the sun while admiring the beauty of the landscape. We did it!


The return trip is good for internalising and reflecting the journey done. Sometimes quietly in your own peace, sometimes in a lively conversation. After returning home, we exchange experiences (and perhaps photos if it’s a hike) and what we have learned during the journey.

We can think about what we might do differently next time and slowly start planning the next adventures.

Ideally, the project gets all the involved parties excited, and its goal is somewhat outside of the comfort zone, to enable development and to create fresh and impactful results.

The best things in designing are the endless inspiration sources, creating ideas and getting to know different people and phenomena. Diving into the imagination and intuition. The many aha-moments and the joy when the work is ready to serve and delight.


Methods for a design project

Trend reports
Weak signals
Mood boards
Idea journals
Competitor and audience analysis
Studies and statistics
Books and articles
Field trips
Journey maps

Equipment for a day hike

Layers of weather-appropriate clothes and good hiking shoes.

A backpack with:
Water bottle
Thermos jar with nutritious food
Thermos mug with coffee
Travel cutlery
Sit mat
Trash bag
Paper towels and tissues
Spare battery for the phone
Notebook and pencils
Spare socks and a t-shirt
Phone and headphones

Would you like to have a creative companion to help you to bring ideas to life? Or maybe some tips on beautiful hikes in Switzerland? Write me to hello@abroadland.com, I would be happy to hear from you.

Writing & Photos: Helena J.
PS. The photos are from my latest walk in Flumserberg except the first photo which is from Engelberg.

Feel free to get in touch0

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